Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy girls soccer teams set to open season

Monday, August 28, 2017 | 11:00 PM

With many players back, the Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy girls soccer teams look forward to return trips to the WPIAL playoffs.

Senior and fourth-year starter Annie Luptak leads Quaker Valley.

Quakers coach Jamie Birmingham said Luptak will center the formation and help the Quakers make the transition from defense to offense.

The Quakers will be strong offensively, with juniors Grace Wirth and Katherine Blaugrund guiding the attack.

“We had very well-balanced scoring last season and again will depend on a number of players to put the ball in the net,” Birmingham said.

Junior Michaela Felix and senior Molly Henschke bring experience to the backfield.

Without the ball, the Quakers are a work in progress.

“While we defended well last year, we hope to improve and bring our goals-against average down,” Birmingham said.

Sophomores Fiona Benge and Steffy Haley and freshman Maya Smith are promising newcomers.

Wirth is excited about the season, the Quakers second under Birmingham.

“He is bringing a lot of new ideas to the table,” Wirth said. “We are trying a new formation that will create more offensive play (and), I am hoping, more opportunities to score.”

The Quakers' Section 1-AA opener is set for Sept. 6 at Keystone Oaks.

They lost in the first round of the 2016 WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Sewickley Academy welcomes back nine starters, including leading scorer Olivia Ryder.

Ryder, a senior, had 15 goals last season.

On defense, junior Theresa Wilson returns to the net after posting four shutouts in 2016.

Also playing are seniors Marynell Dethero, Cameron Ivy, Lu Gillespie, Annabel Gillespie and Abbie Whitaker; juniors Kendall Lightcap and Maggie Paul; and sophomore Catherine Cable.

Panthers coach Jessica Peluso said the team has a strong freshman class.

Ryder expects momentum built over the past few seasons to carry the Panthers.

“We've become very close and comfortable with one another, which will really play to our advantage once the season begins,” she said.

The Panthers will open the season Sept. 5 with a nonsection game at Vincentian, followed by a Section 4-A game the next day at Winchester Thurston.

Wilson said the Panthers have the same goal they do every season — make it all the way. They were eliminated in the first round of the 2016 WPIAL Class A playoffs.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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